The world of toddlerhood brings adventures every day. Your toddler will begin to engage the world around them in a whole new way, learning by leaps and bounds every waking minute. And you’ll be learning just as much. Being a toddler mom isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll be on high alert as they become more mobile—and take in all the bumps and bruises that come with it. You’ll be melted into a puddle of mush as they babble their first words. And you’ll likely find yourself at your wit’s end as you navigate the (very loud) world of toddler temper tantrums.
While you can’t be prepared for everything that comes your way as a toddler mama, here are some things every toddler wishes their mama knew, things that will help make the road from baby to big kid a little less bumpy—and hopefully make the wild ride a little sweeter, too.
photo: Adili Kea
1. I like to party!
And, I especially like to party in the middle of the night. Remember when I started sleeping through the night and you (naively) assumed this new, glorious skill of mine would last through my teen years? Ha! Psyche! After sleeping a rock-solid 12 hours at a stretch for months on end, I’ve realized there’s a great big world out there for me to explore. Who has time to sleep! If you could be so kind as to let me out of my jail, erm, crib, I’d appreciate it. I’ll even make you a deal: I promise not to turn the house into a total disaster tomorrow. (Psyche again!)
2. Throwing food is way more fun than eating it.
Look, ma! I can pick up tiny pieces of food with my developing pincer grasp! And look at this! I can throw them, too! Meal time is suddenly way more fun! Maybe it’s the funny splat sound the food makes as it hits the wall or the way it makes the dog sit at my feet, either way, I’m convinced throwing and dropping food is a much better way to pass the time in my high chair than actually eating.
photo: Hannah Kea
3. My food-throwing enjoyment increases exponentially based on the food’s color.
The best food-throwing fodder is anything green. (Read: veggies.) Something about them being more aerodynamic…and not tasting that great. Insider tip: If you want me to down my veggies without a fight, serve ’em up pouch style.
photo: Haley Ross
4. I’m exhausted, but, no, I don’t want to take a nap, thankyouverymuchforasking.
Need I say more?
5. My brain is running a mile a minute, and my mouth can’t keep up.
I have lots of ideas; I just can’t always express them. And that can make me really, really mad sometimes. Like earth-shattering-tantrum mad. What can I say? I’m a child of many emotions, and they don’t all make sense, even to me. I know I wanted the toy train a minute ago, and this minute I chucked it at your face. But, sometimes, that’s how toddlers roll.
For some perspective, put yourself in my tiny, wobbly shoes. Imagine this: You want something more than anything else in the whole world, and you want it right now but don’t have the means to get it…or the words to express to anyone what you want. See how that feels? You’d get your diaper in a bunch, too.
photo: Haley Shaw
6. More storybooks, please.
I like to look at storybooks, even though I don’t understand the words yet. Seeing all the bright, colorful images helps my brain connect the dots in the world around me. And I like the books even better when there are areas to feel and flaps to lift. So, please, make sure my book basket is filled with colorful, fun-to-touch storybooks. But don’t be surprised if I like to look at the same one over, and over, and over again. Repetition is important to me! There is so much new going on around me, I feel reassured when I know what to expect.
photo: Haley Ross
7. I’m not a baby, not yet a big kid.
You thought my awkward stage wouldn’t come for at least another decade. But it’s happening now. Trust me. Toddlerhood is one of those awkward in-between life stages. See, in a way, I’m still a baby. I need lots of comfort, cuddles and reassurance from my mom. I get scared easily. (That death grip around your neck when you try to introduce me to strangers is your context clue.) But I am also learning to be a big kid, and I love to explore, which I know can make you a little crazy. I’m not trying to give you a heart attack by attempting to stick things into uncovered wall outlets, teetering on the edge of stairs or mastering how to open child-proof bottles. (That “press, twist and turn” stuff? It’s child’s play, really.) Sorry about all that.
photo: Suzanna Palmer
8. Changes of scenery are my love language.
My attention span is still pretty short, between 2 and 5 minutes, so I like to move from one activity to the next…a lot. As you know, I don’t like to stay still either. I’m basically a less furry (but way cuter) Energizer Bunny. To preserve your sanity, here’s an insider tip for you: Remember my love for new things any time I’m starting to get a little grouchy. I respond almost instantly to changes of scenery. If I’m having a tantrum in the living room, take me on a walk. If I’m fussing in the home section of Target, take me to the toy aisle. (Duh.) A simple change of activity or scenery is often all it takes to help me regroup.
photo: Christy Blevins
9. Laughing with you makes me happy.
I love to laugh! I am starting to understand the world in a new way, which is really growing my sense of humor. Help develop this new part of me by sharing some big belly laughs with me every day. Laughing together will help teach me the joy of humor, whether you’re sneaking in some tummy tickles while changing my diaper, doing silly things and making funny noises, or giggling with me as I build a block tower and knock it down (again and again).
10. This phase won’t last forever.
I know you’re tired, mama, but I am, too. Be patient with me. This getting-to-know-the-world-and-myself stuff is pretty exhausting. But no matter how tired either of us get, if I could talk a little better, I would tell you you’re my number one person in all the world and you’re doing a great job. And, I think under-eye circles are kind of cute. I’m going to make it through these crazy toddler years, thanks to you. And you’ll make it through too. Then, someday, you’ll look back and wish you could do it all over again. So cherish this time as much as you can. And, when you’re feeling a little crazy, I’ve got some good tips: Don’t be afraid to throw some food, give yourself a change of scenery, or take time to laugh.